Wahyu Putro Arinto, LKBN Antara

In the middle of silence, suddenly a scary female ghost called kuntilanak flew over above a stage. The audience, only in a handful of people, closed their eyes with their hands right away. It was a full of horror and mystical atmosphere. That is the impression after seeing the play with a combination of horror story and folk tales of Bumi Parahiyangan (Sundanese land) in Miss Tjitjih theater.

This theater company has entertained people in Cempaka Putih, Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, since Batavia era until now. Miss Tjitjih remains using Sundanese language in all of its shows. Year by year, generation after generation, the plays feature the same themes. Most of them are with horror genre with titles such as ‘The Kuntilanak of the Leaning Kiosk’, ‘Life after Burial’ and ‘Giving Birth after Burial’.

Horror stories and mystical aura have been existed and felt by people of different generations. Even, these could be considered as Indonesia’s intangible cultural heritage. Horror and mystical themes have been adapted by Miss Tjitjih in most of its plays. The theater company, which was founded in 1927 in Batavia, has been consistent with the theme of a horror genre both during its heyday and current period despite the long gone loyal audience.

Ironically, the horror atmosphere does not reflect only in its show but also in the actors’ everyday life; financial ‘horrors’ have been all too familiar to Miss Tjitjih member actors. “We, the actors, only get money after staging a show, thanks to the subsidy provided by Jakarta Administration,” said Imas Darsih, who has been appointed to head Miss Tjitjih.

She said a show will never be performed without the subsidy fund. Therefore, actors have to find ways to earn a living. Some actors do have side jobs.

Miss Tjitjih theater company, billed as a pioneer of the country’s modern theater, has been eroded by the time. It has been far left behind by modern arts within entertainment industry which have long won the people’s heart. It is a real challenge for the Sundanese folk art to survive in the middle of the heterogeneity of Jakarta residents.

After all, beyond all of those financial difficulties, the actors determine to keep their spirit up to prevent Miss Tjitjih theater from extinction.

Wahyu Putro Arinto

Started to work as a photographer in Antara News Agency in 2012. A year later, he was selected as one of the 30 young photographers in Asia to join an Angkor Photo Workshop in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
He also participated in some photo exhibitions, including “Kilas Balik Antara Photo” of 2009-2010, 2011, 2012, 2013-2014, “Sinabung-Kelud Calling”, “Mt Merapi 10 Summit of Fire”.